- Agriculture, Forestry & Soils
- Field crops, grasses, plant fibers, spices, tree crops, herbs
- Black pepper
Strausbaugh, Perry D. Department of Botany, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia.
Core, Earl L. Department of Biology, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia.
Last reviewed:December 2019
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
One of the oldest and most important of the spices. Black pepper is the dried, unripe fruit of a weak climbing vine, Piper nigrum (see illustration), which is a member of the pepper family (Piperaceae). It is a native of India and has spread throughout much of Southeast Asia, especially Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia. The fruits are small one-seeded berries that, on ripening, undergo a color change from green to red to yellow. When the berries reach the red stage, they are picked, sorted and dried. The dry, wrinkled berries (peppercorns) are ground to make the familiar black pepper of commerce. White pepper is obtained by grinding the seed separately from the surrounding pulp. In addition, black pepper oil can be obtained from the fruit of P. nigrum; this essential oil is colorless to slightly greenish, with a pepper odor and mild taste. The garden pepper, Capsicum annuum, is botanically unrelated to black pepper. See also: Essential oils; Piperales; Spice and flavoring
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